Removing debris to demonstrate commercial in-orbit servicing

Growing levels of artificial objects and debris around Earth – in both protected and unprotected orbital regions – is leading to an increased risk of collision with cascading effects. Studies by NASA and ESA have showed that the environment could be stabilised through the removal of approximately five objects per year.

In-orbit servicing of satellites – spanning from inspection, to payload maintenance, to assembly and upgrade, refuelling, tugging, and more – is, meanwhile, an emerging market forecast to materialise at some point in time.

In this context, ESA is considering presenting to its next Council meeting at Ministerial level, foreseen to be held in December 2019 (CM19), a proposal to place service contract(s) with European provider(s) for the safe removal of ESA-owned satellite(s). The aim is to make an active contribution to a cleaner space and to demonstrate European capacities for in-orbit satellite removal. Accordingly, ESA has just issued a Request for Information (RFI) and is holding a workshop on 13 September to present this initiative.

Clamping a satellite

This initiative addresses three objectives:

  1. to perform the removal of a non operational ESA object(s) as a precursor of in-orbit servicing;
  2. to demonstrate European (plus associated Member States) technologies, functions and operational know-how to perform other in-orbit services;
  3. to achieve the above by means of service contract(s) to provide an opportunity to European space industry to enter into this new space market.

The overall mission statement is:

Perform the deorbit of ESA-owned satellite(s) in execution of service contract(s) placed by ESA and demonstrate capabilities and technologies for in-orbit servicing

The main mission requirements are:

MIS-01 Remove ESA owned satellite(s) with a total mass larger than 100 kg at least five years prior to its/their natural re-entry.  

MIS-o2 Demonstrate feasibility of critical technologies enabling other in-orbit servicing opportunities.

MIS-03 Provide a robust business model for in-orbit servicing activities beyond services provided to ESA

MIS-04 Comply to space debris mitigation requirements stated in the “Space debris mitigation requirements”

The proposals will also have to address issues such as

  • Risks analysis
  • Partnerships with ESA
  • Industrial consortium

To download the RFI please click here

A dedicated workshop will take place at ESTEC on 13 September 2018 in the Erasmus Building from 9:00 until 12:30. During this workshop, ESA will provide more detailed information on programmatic, system, technology, operations and procurement aspects complementing the present RFI. There will also be a questions and answers session.  Please register by e-mail to the following address: InOrbitServicingRFI@esa.int

You will find the workshop agenda here: http://emits.sso.esa.int/emits-doc/ESTEC/News/RFI-WORKSHOPagenda.pdf

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